For many, being vegetarian or vegan is more than a dietary restriction – it’s a lifestyle that dictates not only what an individual puts in their body, but also what an individual puts on their body. Many vegans and vegetarians choose to eliminate animal skins and furs from their wardrobe and instead wear synthetic alternatives.
Beyond themselves, animal activists often protest other people (who may be non-vegan or non-vegetarian) wearing animal-based clothing. In Northeastern cities during cold winter weather, Canada Goose is a brand that is often by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, a prominent American animal rights activism group. As the name suggests, Canada Goose uses goose feathers for down in their clothing, which is known for being particularly warm. In addition to goose feathers, the hoods of some Canada Goose jackets are lined with coyote fur. PETA, along with other animal rights activists, has accordingly been fighting against Canada Goose jackets, pointing to their inhumane killing and use of innocent animals.
In my belief, veganism is the most ethical dietary choice. However, I also feel that PETA and other vegans alike are wrong to fight Canada Goose. In other words, I believe that Canada Goose outerwear is an ethical choice, even for vegans and vegetarians.
As we know it today, almost all animals produced for food consumption do suffer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s standard protocols reveal the gruesome reality that is the fate for cows, pigs, and chickens in most U.S. factory farms. No doubt, animals on factory farms suffer. Based on my logic above, it does not matter whether animals on factory farms have rights or not, because they are suffering – and thus, it is unethical for humans to consume them for food. However, with respect to Canada Goose jackets, there has yet to be proof that the geese and coyotes used in the process suffer. In their Fur and Down Policy, Canada Goose the following: "We believe all animals are entitled to humane treatment in life and death, and are deeply committed to the responsible use and ethical sourcing of all animal materials in our products. We do not condone any willful mistreatment and neglect of animals or acts that maliciously cause undue pain, injury or suffering."
PETA protesters have posted and showing and claiming cruel treatment of animals by Canada Goose, but none of these assertions or videos have actually been directly linked back to Canada Goose, nor has Canada Goose taken ownership of them. In fact, only the opposite has been proven from the videos, if anything. The company uses animals from Canada and the United States. In Canada, Canada Goose adheres to the Agreement of International Humane Trapping Standards, which that legal traps must “[produce] rapid onset of unconsciousness and insensibility of animals trapped,” meaning that the animal will die or be unconscious simultaneously – and therefore will not experience any suffering. In the United States, Canada Goose follows the Best Managed Practices for Trapping in the United States. The BMP has a similar clause to the AIHTS, that “All types of traps used on land to hold live animals were evaluated […for] animal welfare.” From these, Canada Goose ensures humane treatment of animals with complete minimization, if not full eradication, of suffering. In other words, Canada Goose follows the procedures of a “perfect kill” – where an animal does not suffer. Because the animals do not suffer, Canada Goose passes Bentham’s first test: Does the animal suffer? No. Therefore, under Bentham’s logic, Canada Goose outerwear made with animal feathers and fur is ethical.
The 21st-century counter-argument to this is obvious: why can one not use synthetic materials instead of animal materials? Modern technology has produced synthetic down and other down alternatives to goose feathers, as well as synthetic fake furs made of mostly plastics. However, we must consider what this does to the environment.
The second motivation for a vegan or vegetarian diet: sustainability. A vegan diet is better for the because, as written in an essay for the Worldwatch Institute, “the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future – deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.” Therefore, sustainability is a motivating factor for plant-based food consumption. However, this argument does not hold when applied to the use of animals for Canada Goose jackets. In fact, science proves the opposite. Faux-furs and synthetics used in animal-alternative clothing are not sustainable for the environment. The alone accounts for ten percent of global carbon emissions and is the second largest polluter, only behind oil. Beyond consumption, synthetic polymers used in clothing are one of the world’s largest polluters. These synthetic materials often in the ocean or international landfills with lax environmental regulations. Unfortunately, these synthetics are not biodegradable, and thus as polluters for up to decades on end.
Animal skins, furs, and feathers propose the more environmentally-friendly alternative. The geese and coyote products used in Canada Goose jackets are naturally occurring and biodegradable. and are both populations of “least concern” and are increasing, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The use of the animals is not making them anywhere near extinct. In fact, it is the exact opposite, as both populations are cited as increasing populations in North America. Therefore, the use of plant-based alternatives for a dietary consumption is sustainably ethical, but the use of synthetic alternatives for clothing is not, thus making Canada Goose a sustainably ethical choice.
In conclusion, although ethics and sustainability might motivate a vegan or vegetarian diet, I believe it is morally responsible and ethical for a vegan or vegetarian to own and wear a Canada Goose jacket.
Emily Erdos is an Associate Opinion Editor of The Daily Princetonian. This letter represents the views of the Associate Opinion Editor only. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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